Hyogo Prefecture’s Kobe City is culturally and artistically rich, home to many onsen, unique cuisine and spectacular views. Spend a weekend in this prefectural capital and immerse yourself in history and culture before slowing down, having some well-known Kobe beef, and relaxing in a private onsen at the Japanese ryokan Hotel Isago Kobe.

Day 1: Absorb Culture and Soak in Luxury

Located a stone’s throw away from JR Shin-Kobe Station — and only a minute’s walk from Hotel Isago Kobe — is the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum. This cultural facility is a delight for anyone with a casual interest in architecture, and one can spend the whole day perusing the various exhibits on the cultural heritage of Japanese woodworking and trying hands-on experiences and workshops. 

The museum’s own architecture is something to marvel at. Built using traditional Japanese techniques, the complex is a gorgeous open space with wood accents that give off a wonderful tree smell and large windows that fill the rooms with natural light. After touring the museum, lounge and meditate in the adjacent Zen Japanese garden.

Having explored the museum to its fullest, it’s time for a hearty dinner. Enjoy a full-course meal featuring world-class Kobe beef at Hotel Isago Kobe’s restaurant Kochou, a high-end eatery where you can dine in a private tatami room. Carefully selected seasonal ingredients from both mountain and sea make up the various dishes, plated elegantly.

What better way to end your day than to soak away in a private onsen tub, letting the water wash away all of your worries? At Hotel Isago Kobe, the spring water has sodium bicarbonate, an element that beautifies and cleanses the body, making your skin feel moisturized and smooth. Whether you prefer to bathe first thing in the morning or to unwind at the end of a day of exploring, checking out the onsen is a non-negociable. 

In addition to the above-mentioned Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum, Hotel Isago Kobe is within walking distance from other sightseeing destinations, such as the Nunobiki Waterfall and Nunobiki Herb Gardens, accessible via a gondola or a short hike. 

Hotel Isago Kobe is a Michelin Guide-recommended hotel that has a high reputation among travelers in search of wabi-sabi, the feeling of finding the natural beauty in the aesthetic of things. Book a Japanese-style or Western-style room to suit your preferences. With a full stomach and clean body and mind, let your head rest on the soft pillows and drift off into the night.

Day 2: Surround Yourself with Nature and Panoramic Views

After a delicious breakfast at Hotel Isago Kobe, spend your day surrounded by the luscious nature of Kobe. Explore waterfalls, gardens, panoramic views and nature’s beauty, and conclude your day observing a lovely night sky.

Hike up to the Nunobiki Waterfalls and Herb Gardens

The area around Hotel Isago Kobe and Shin-Kobe Station is home to gorgeous and much-welcome greenery despite its uber-central location. With many hiking trails suited to beginner and experienced hikers, forest bathing has never been easier.

Walk from the hotel to the start of the nearby trail to Nunobiki Waterfall and Gardens. You can take the cable cars up, although we suggest hiking up to make the panoramic views at the top all the more rewarding. The heading up to the gardens takes about an hour, passing some beautiful forests, streams and waterfalls, as well as lookouts, from which, on a clear day, you can see as far as the Seto Inland Sea.

The first highlight on the trail is Nunobiki Waterfall, which flows from the Ikuta River and is the source of high-quality Kobe water. Making the top 100 best waterfalls in Japan, and one of the three greatest divine waterfalls, this is an absolute must-see. A small shop a little further up the road sells beer, in case you want a small refresher on the way. 

Then, trek on to the reservoir of the concrete dam called Gohonmatsu Entei, an architectural heritage spot surrounded by a thicket of trees.

Photo by Gaid Kornsilapa via Shutterstock

Up the hill lies the Nunobiki Herb Gardens, housing around 200 species and 75,000 seasonal flowers and herb plants throughout the year, including a rose garden, herb garden and greenhouse. It has stunning views over hills of flowers and the glistening sea and islands beyond, with picnic tables and hammocks to rest. A beer garden allows for more refreshments and there are various restaurants to enjoy some well-deserved food. After traipsing around the park, soak your feet in the foot bath to wash away the soreness of all the steps you’ve taken. Entry to the gardens is free.

See the Sunset as You Take the Ropeway Down

When the sun is setting, make your way back to the ropeway to admire the sunset-lit scenery of Kobe from the big glass windows of the cable cars down. At night, the herb gardens light up and alongside the city lights, making for a perfect romantic atmosphere if traveling with your better half. On your way down, keep your eyes peeled to spot the waterfalls you hiked passed.

More Info

Japanese Ryokan Hotel Isago Kobe

4-3-7 Kumochicho, Chuo-ku, Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture


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